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Thursday, 29 May 1930

Senator RAE - When the Senate adjourned for lunch I was dealing with the opinions of Senator Pearce and Senator Colebatch in regard to this bill, opinions which did not, in my view, raise any valid objections to the measure. Take the statement that the proposed labour conditions to be associated with the granting of the bounty are ultra vires of the Constitution. In other matters of similar import, it has been the custom to lay down' conditions under which bounties shall be granted. It may not be constitutional to do what was attempted in the Barger case where there was a distinct provision in an Excise Act that certain things, should be done, both as regards the price of the manufactured articles to the consumer and the wages to be paid to those working in the industry. But it has been held that there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government granting bounties and laying down conditions under which they shall be paid, and I believe that that is all that this measure attempts. The point was particularly raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that the bill goes further than laying down the conditions for the actual production of wine ; that it also provides that certain rates shall be paid to those working in the grape-growing industry. Growers of grapes would not receive the prices they do for their product were it not for the bounty paid on the wine produced from their grapes. There is nothing inconsistent in the bill which provides that the grape-growers shall be bound by conditions similar to those imposed on the manufacturers of wine. If there is any legal constitutional obstacle to be surmounted, it can be settled only by the High Court, and not by this Parliament.

The statement was made that this is largely a family industry. There is nothing in the bill to prevent families who would not employ wage labour from carrying on as they are at present. The Minister is not looking for trouble and he would no"t seek to interfere with family arrangements, unless those concerned approach the court. I do not see how it would be possible to appeal to the High Court to settle conditions already decided upon by those concerned in the family.

A fantastic idea was advanced that the wages paid by one grower or group of growers might be perfectly satisfactory to those engaged in the industry in that locality, but that very much higher rates might be paid in another district. It seems very clear to me that those engaged in the lower paid localities would not be satisfied and, in the circumstances, there would be reason for the Government appealing to the judge of the Arbitration Court for a declaration. It is rather strange that in every argument that has been adduced by honorable senators opposite, they lay down the condition that labour must be prepared to suffer; that all the sacrifices must come from the wage-earners, while all the advantages are to be reaped by those to whom the bounty is directly paid. There is no element of fairness in such a contention. The Commonwealth pays bounties to certain sections of the community with moneys drawn from the revenue provided by the citizens of Australia.

Senator McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is not so in this case, as the industry itself has to bear the cost.

Senator RAE - It is so in a certain sense. It is impossible to carry on any industry without labour. The contention of honorable senators opposite seems to be founded on the idea that it is only those who have invested some capital in a concern who have a right to enjoy the protection afforded by the legislation of the Commonwealth. It is obviously the fair thing to provide that, when any advantage is received by the producing section of the community, those employed in that industry should not be degraded to the condition of mere serfs and have to accept the scraps that the employer chooses to throw to them. It is the. bounden duty of those who benefit to see that those who provide the essential factor of labour receive something approaching a fair return for their efforts. This Commonwealth Parliament would be directly lacking in its duty if it did not make some such provision in this legislation. I should be opposed to the granting of bounties unless provision were made that those selling their labour to the industry received a fair wage. It has been a contention thai some States benefit more than others from the granting of these bounties. Although South Australia is the chief producer of wines, other States gain correspondingly through the payment of bounties on the production cif other commodities which they are specially fitted to produce. In those circumstances I see no objection to the clauses which have been subjected to criticism during this debate.

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